In preparation for this month’s issue we decided to take a look back and sample some of the oldies but goodies that are still on the market. No we are not talking about the Atari Game Machine, Video Disk, Streamline Phone, or Scarface the Movie, but some of these are still goodies. We are talking about cigars, stogies, and sticks. What we learned is the blends have pretty much stayed consistent and of course some of these classic brands have introduced new blends to please the palate of the 21st century smoker.
As I think about the days of old, I recall the first time I fired up a truly premium cigar. It was a Punch Double Punch, gifted to me by a colleague while on a business trip. Prior to this I was smoking Garcia Vega’s and Teamo’s. You know, the kind your father or grandfather may have smoked. It was what it was – a cigar, no glitz or glamour, not a lot of flavor transitions. Usually I smoked them when I was cooking something on the grill or sitting at a bar drinking a beer, but the Punch changed all that.
The Punch Double Punch was a medium to full body cigar, rich with flavor and delivering heavy volumes of smoke. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted. It was also a long smoke lasting almost 2 hours on a drive from western Massachusetts to Boston. Originally a Cuban brand (and still is) the Punch, had a deep brown color and was stacked with Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican tobacco. Back in the 1990s Honduran tobacco was all the rage but a hurricane wiped out a lot of the tobacco fields and they have been rebuilding since as Nicaragua seems to have taken over as the tobacco of choice for many of our favorite blends.
Once I finished the Punch I went on a tear, searching out premium cigars. Geez, what rock was I under all those years! My senses were awakened like a child having their first taste of chocolate or a teenager experiencing a first kiss. I started to visit local shops and discovering lounges where I could relax and enjoy a smoke while engaging in scintillating conversation with other Brothers of the Leaf. The ladies were not fully into the scene at that time, but you could find an occasional Sister of the Leaf. Boston Jimmie was being baptized into the world of cigars and I discovered some additional favorites of the time.
The Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur, was one of the best Honduran blends on the market. I especially enjoyed the number 1 which was big and bold and came in a Natural and Maduro wrap. Both were excellent cigars. Even to this day their website which did not exist back then, states:
They’re made “en la manera de los Indios” (the Indian way)−still simply a product of the sun, the wind, and the soil. Full bodied and straightforward, they’re the standard for all Honduran cigars.
I ran out to my local ABC liquor store over the weekend, and like the old days, I reached into the small humidor that has been there for decades and pulled out a few classics including the Excalibur, a Fuente Chateau, a Don Tomas, a Partagas Black, and a Fuente Curly Head. They didn’t have the Punch Double Punch though so I will find that another time.
I spent the weekend in the Stogie Press Lounge, smoking these oldies and you can read the brief reviews here.
One thing I can say for sure, flavor is a lot like scent. It can take you back in time, and smoking a cigar gives you a double dose of sensory time warp as you relax and experience one of life’s pleasures. Smoking a cigar that you haven’t had in while is a pleasurable experience as you relax and let you mind drift back to the time you first enjoyed that blend, remembering old friends, places, and stories of the time.
As we easily get lost in the new boutique brands and flavors let’s not forget the cigar oldies but goodies that survived the ebbs and flows of this industry and give them a whirl once more, you may enjoy the experiences all over again.